“There’s no life, no sparkle in your eyes.”
This wasn’t the first time she said it. It was for the umpteenth time she commented about his eyes and how they had changed over the years. Usually, this monologue of hers would continue with her attribution of this to the chronic lack of sleep that she thought he suffered.
He didn’t want to draw himself into a protracted argument about how, at 35 years, he could take care of himself. He knew exactly when he needed to rest and how his body functioned. She couldn’t understand how he got that socially inhibiting disease and reasoned that it was simply because he didn’t eat enough fruit which leads to a vitamin deficiency. More often than not, he took great pains to explain that it came from somewhere up the family tree but it was to be in vain. Always.
He had no desire to respond to her comments about his eyes. They would open a can of worms, starting from the trips to the Institute and ending with the short time he popped pills that were prescribed for children with ADHD. He didn’t need to have to deal with her being aghast at how her son had made numerous trips to that part of Hougang. He didn’t want to tell her about the discomfort he felt while waiting for his consultation with the shrink.
But, in another place and at another time, he would think about how he would respond:
They say our eyes are the windows to our soul. If someone’s eyes no longer hold the faintest of sparkle, what does that tell you about that person’s thoughts, feelings and his past? How would you describe the eyes of an infant or the toddler? How can you compare my eyes you saw when you carried me in your arms and in your bosom with the eyes that I have now? Would you know that besides the probable lack of sleep, they tell another story? Would they have told you about the storms in my life? How would you have reacted? Could you do anything to bring the sparkle back?
These words were never spoken. He suspected that they would remain that way for a long time to come. Or they may never be spoken to anyone in his life.
Then, when he remained the only unmarried offspring on the wrong side of 30 from her extended family, she possibly wanted to ward off the endless questions blabbermouth relatives would ask about his longstanding marital status. Therefore, she had to press and pressure.
But she had no inkling of how, in his world of solitude, storms have raged and are raging. She had no idea of the loneliness that engulfed him whenever special occasions rolled around. Or that there were so many moments in his life when he just needed to talk to someone or bounce his thoughts off. Or how, he spent 50 pounds to subscribe to an online dating site with nothing to show for except one youngish gal who decided to disappear after their first date.
She didn’t know he was prepared to take any chance. She didn’t know the pressure he had to deal with. Or that he had been mulling over the thought of visiting one of those foreign bride agencies.
He wasn’t sure if she could deal with a foreign daughter-in-law. In her haste in wanting to marry off her son, has she considered the scenario of having a Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Pakistani, Burmese or Chinese national as her daughter-in-law? This was notwithstanding the possible problems in communicating.
It is entirely possible that the sparkle left his eyes a long time ago. He’s now just soldiering on for the sake of it. It would take a woman with an amazingly big capacity to love for her to accept him. Whatever qualities he had have been suppressed to the point of oblivion. Even then, they would amount to nothing in this world where looks, egos and money rule. He was more than ready to accept and work on something. But, in a world full of options, is she, or are they, willing to do the same?